Hello, I Am Mariya
Like many people, I chose to do an apprenticeship because I would be able to get a degree and earn a salary at the same time. I would be working towards my studying and vice versa. I felt like it was the 'golden ticket'. I went through different phases in my life where I would switch between my future. Since Year 9, I decided I did not want to go to university - mostly due to my sister dropping out and still having to pay off the student fees. In my head, I just didn't agree with paying for education. 'There has to be another way' is what I thought, and as I went into Year 10, I found out about apprenticeships, but I also really wanted to go to college. So off I went to college, but when my college put me into a ‘higher achieving group’ which spoke about Oxbridge applications majority of the time, I was put into a position where I thought apprenticeships weren’t for me. But then I found out about degree apprenticeships, and I just couldn’t think of a reason why I wouldn’t do it! I come from a not-so-wealthy family, and I did not want to rely on my parents financially until I finished university, nor did I want to work side-by-side university. Watching podcasts and reading posts from past/current apprentices really encouraged me to go down the degree apprenticeship route, because from that I knew the support I would be getting from my employer and training provider would make working and studying simultaneously a lot easier, which is not something you can get if you are possibly working a part-time job and going to university. Another huge reason as to why I chose apprenticeships is because it aligned with my religious beliefs. My religion discourages loans and debts, and going to university meant I would have to participate in that. But if there is an alternative way to get the same thing and avoid it, why would I not have chosen an apprenticeship? It was a no brainer for sure! I have gotten immense support from my family members and the people I am surrounded by who all hugely encouraged going for apprenticeships and loved the idea of it, along with people even saying ‘I wish we had that sort of thing during our time’ which just made me love the concept of apprenticeships 100 times more!
Tell us more about your experience
Can you describe your job and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
My current role at BT for my UX apprenticeship is a Product Owner for a design team. I have a responsibility for the project's outcome and my job is to maximise the product's value by managing and opitimising the product backlog. Managing the team's capabilities, and also communicating with stakeholders and understanding their requirements for the pages that we release is also a huge part of my role. Also, in the team, I often perform QA tests for the websites/pages that we release in my team. I often must think about the user experience for the pages that we release, to ensure that our product is up to the user-standard. Doing this requires a large amount of empathy and understanding for the people who use our sites, because in this way the business will become more successful if the user can easily use the websites.
What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I would say the biggest challenge doing this apprenticeship would be managing my time to both study and work. I came out of college as a huge procrastinator and getting into an apprenticeship meant I had to change my whole way of working. Managing my time so that I am able to study, work, have a social life and also have time for my family is something you could struggle with more in comparison to going to university but I believe that once you have found out what works for you, and how to manage your time EFFECTIVELY definitely makes things easier for you mentally and physically.
What sort of support network do you have at your company?
The support network at my company is amazing. I have my team 'leader' (not an official leader) who provides me a huge, enormous amount of support during my time at the company so far and is very understanding about my beginner level in UX and provides me with resources and tips to better myself personally and professionally. I also get a lot of help and advice from my line manager who supports me, primarily with the link between my company work and my university work and is someone I can go to whenever I feel like I am struggling. A huge support would also be from my apprentice friends - having people who are experiencing the same thing you are makes things a lot more comforting. We also have a lot of support teams in our university, who we can reach out to at any point for anything related to academia or personal struggles, along with our university skills coach who ensures that what we study at university is what we are incorporating into the business and vice versa.
What will happen at the end of your apprenticeship, and have you discussed this with your employer?
According to my company, we are provided with a full-time role at our company related to the field you're studying in - subject to our degree results. As long as you're performing well and up-to-standard, you are given a role at the company post-graduation. Why else would they invest so much money in you?
What would be your words of advice to someone thinking about doing an apprenticeship?
Personally, I think more people should do apprenticeships. If you're thinking about doing an apprenticeship, I genuinely believe you should go for it. The fact that you're considering it means you're interested in it, and it's definitely better than you would expect it to be. It's a sign. My main advice if you're struggling to find whether it is for you is to reach out to past or current apprentices and seek genuine advice from them regarding anything you are concerned about. Most apprentices are more than happy to speak to people about their experience as an apprentice, so don't hesitate! Watch videos and podcasts of people talking about apprenticeships, even watch TikTok's on it - they're genuinely very helpful and insightful on the pros and cons of apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are the 'golden ticket'!